what is schema markup

What is Schema Markup, and 4 Ways How It Improves Your SEO

For many of us, part of getting an adequate education has included learning a foreign language. After all, wisdom for over a century has been that knowing how to talk to people from other cultures is important. And in many countries, there’s more than one language that people speak at home, even among the traditional population.

While most people don’t think about this often, the fact is that computers speak a different language from ours. It doesn’t matter whether your native tongue is English, Chinese, Russian, or Spanish. Instead, computers learn to “think” in their own language. There are several computer languages available, some of which are more modern and more common than others.

For search engines, part of the challenge is turning the human language of words on a page into something that the computer and its algorithms can easily interpret. In other words, we must carefully help a computer like a language student. One of the methods we have to accomplish this task is schema markup.

What is Schema Markup?

what is a _____?

Schema markup is structured data or semantic vocabulary that helps search engines understand and classify your website. Think of it as a type of dictionary or translator, where the computer can automatically turn for help with its language questions.

Specifically, structured data or schema markup gives search engine context regarding the different pages on your site and how they connect. In this sense, an answer to what schema markup is “a type of map.” Just as computers can be language learners, they can also be travelers in a foreign land that need help finding things.

Let’s take a look at the features and benefits of schema markup in more detail.

What is Schema Markup Used for?

It allows major search engines like Google and Bing to understand your content better. For instance, it will tell the search engine what kind of content is on each webpage. This way, the search engine knows how to categorize content and, in turn, rank it more accurately. In other words, schema markup helps ensure that the right people see the right web pages.

Schema markup also enables Google to create rich snippets. These are the pop-out pieces of information that you get when hovering over SERPs. For instance, you might have a recipe for chocolate cake pop out when you’re looking for birthday party ideas — or even just cake recipes.

Types of Schema Markup

structured data markup that Google Search supports
Source

There are several types of schema markups, depending on the type of content and the category of topic. Each of these helps to clarify the contents of a webpage. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of markups that are used very frequently.

  • Person — indicates that the article mentions an important person. For instance, I can have a schema markup specifying that my website is about Neal Schaffer.
  • Organization — this could be any kind of organization, whether nonprofit, governmental, or for-profit company. The options are endless, so long as you’re talking about a group that accomplishes something.
  • Place — a location of any size, from a house to a shopping mall, town, or even nation. Items with this schema markup indicate a physical place.
  • Product — any kind of goods and services for sale qualify for the product markup. From this standpoint, the answer to what is schema markup is “a description.”
  • Event — whenever something happens, it’s an event, whether in real life or the world of schema markups. This event can be one-time, periodic, or ongoing.
  • FAQs — people love to ask questions, and they like getting answers almost as much. With this schema markup, you can direct people straight to their answers.

Examples of Schema Markup

Although schema markup types and categories are very helpful to computer algorithms, they don’t tell the whole story. Rather, schema markups can also describe something very specific.

Here are some examples:

Recipe markup

recipe schema markup example
Source

Remember the chocolate cake recipe? It should have a recipe markup that indicates to the search engine that the article contains a recipe.

Review markup

review markup metadata example
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This results in a little graphic that shows how many reviews a location, product, or service has.

Photo or picture markup

image metadata in google images
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This lets the search engine the that a particular item is actually a photo. I’ve spoken several times about the importance of metadata with photos because they describe the object for people with screen readers and provide SEO opportunities. However, with a photo markup, you can make sure that the metadata is properly attributed.

How is Schema Markup Incorporated on Web Pages?

There are several ways that you can incorporate schema markup on your website. There are two older methods, called Microdata and RDFa (Resource Description Framework in Attributes) decode directly to the backend of your website. You can view a detailed description of this process on Impact Plus.

The other way to use schema markup is to add the markup language directly in your developer tools. You can use tools like Google’s validator app or a competitor’s equivalent. These let you check your work. There are also markup generators like this one that can help you insert the data.

If you have a WordPress site, you are in luck because many of the leading SEO plugins, such as Yoast, Rank Math, and All in One SEO, have various degrees of schema support built inside of them.

There are also dedicated WordPress plugins that can help you to implement schema markup. If this is the approach you prefer, I recommend that you look into one of the following plugins:

This helpful video below gives you an idea of how even non-coders can do it manually for their own website:

YouTube video

Is Schema Markup Necessary?

Now that you understand what is schema markup, it’s logical to ask if this technique is appropriate for your site. I’m here to tell you that Schema markup is not necessary for every site. Some of them are too small, while with others, the contents of the site are relatively uncomplicated.

With that said, there are several situations where schema markup is necessary. In particular, it’s time for schema if your site is already ranking well in SERPs to the point that it’s eligible for rich snippets. In this case, using the markup will help your website harness its full potential.

Another reason to use schema markup is if you have a good brand presence and you wish to establish your entity in the Knowledge Graph. In this case, you are holding yourself out as an expert on a particular topic. And in turn, you’re ready to try and become a go-to site when people need to learn about your niche.

Finally, you should consider that if you’re starting out with SEO then schema markup is just another thing to master. Rather than working hard to understand another complicated language, you need to take care of the more pressing SEO issues that may exist on your website. Then, as your site starts to climb the SERPs, you can start looking into schema use.

Does Schema Markup Help with SEO?

Yes, adding schema markup to your site can help improve your SEO or search presence. The main reason for this is that schema markups don’t just help the search engine. They can also help humans identify common features on a website and find what they need. Conversely, if the schema markups indicate that a website won’t contain what they need, then people can go elsewhere without clicking through. That helps reduce your bounce rate.

With that said, there is no evidence to prove that it improves your search rankings directly. It simply improves many of the performance metrics that search engines use to decide which websites get what rankings. In other words, schema helps primarily at the site performance level.

Further Reading: The 6 Meta Tags That Can Help Improve Your SEO

Here are 4 Ways How Schema Markup Improves Your SEO

Let’s unpack the potential of schema markup for SEO that extends beyond just the machine readability. For instance, schema markup allows your site to qualify for enhanced features that help edge out your competition, often in subtle ways.

1. Schema Markup Rich Snippets Make Your Search Results More Attractive and Enticing

Schema Markup Rich Snippets recipe example

For example, if you have a recipe site with rich snippets, your page may feature a photo, ingredients, ratings, reviews, etc such as pictured in the image above. Having these often helps people choose your website instead of another one since it is easier for them to see what is on your website.

Try to think about it this way — would you go to a website that only promises decadent chocolate cake recipes, or would you go to the one with a rich snippet featuring a mouthwatering confection? Really, it’s just like marketing for the rest of your brand.

Further Reading: 7 Must-Have Ingredients to a Successful SEO Strategy

2. Increases Clickthrough Rate

what is influencer marketing google search result schema mark up rich snippet example

Structured data will increase visibility and click-throughs to your content if you mark your pages with it. In this sense, schema markup is like the preview for a movie. Viewers get a little teaser that helps them see the possibilities and get interested in the rest of the show. Likewise, schema markup boosts your clickthrough rate by demonstrating that your website is worth the visit.

Further Reading: The Definitive 30-Step Basic SEO Checklist for 2023

3. Schema Markup can Help You Become an Entity in the Knowledge Graph

neal schaffer knowledge graph example

You can get a knowledge panel for yourself, either as a person or an organization. Being included in the Knowledge Graph can help your brand to be perceived as a reputable entity. In short, it offers great branding in the SERPs. Over time, your website can become quite a destination on a particular topic.

Further Reading: 55 SEO Statistics for 2023 You Need To See To Believe

4. Drive More Organic Traffic to Your Site

influencer marketing roi google search result example of how rich snippets give you more real estate in SERPs

Finally, schema markup delivers what — more traffic. Your content will stand out among thousands of search results with a knowledge panel or a rich snippet. This will help you drive more organic traffic to your site because people will be truly interested in what you have to offer.

Moreover, visitors will feel more confident about clicking through to your page when they can see more detailed information about it. As a result, views, engagement, and conversions can improve dramatically.

Further Reading: SEO Basics: A Beginners Guide on How to Do SEO

Conclusion

There’s no question that schema markup is a relatively advanced feature for any website. This is especially true with smaller sites that have fewer resources. Fortunately, if your site is small enough thing you really don’t need it, at least not right away. However, when your site becomes competitive from other efforts, it’s time to bring in the schema. This way, you can continue to grow your audience and further improve your SEO rankings.

Hero Photo by Headway on Unsplash

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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